You can help protect your child from accidents and injuries by taking general safety measures around your home. Think ahead about what potentially dangerous situations will attract your child. Supervise your child, but keep in mind that constant hovering over children can limit their experiences and confidence. Balancing supervision with safety precautions will help prevent accidents and injuries as well as allow children to explore.
The following are common accidents and injuries that can occur around the house, and some suggestions on how to prevent them.
Preventing falls isn't always easy. Toddlers and young children often move quickly. Their excitement about their mobility and their lack of experience can make them unaware of dangers, such as stairs or hills. Children ages 4 to 5 years anticipate many dangers, but they may not have the physical skills to avoid accidents. Some ways to help prevent falls are to:
- Use sliding gates at both ends of stairways.
- Use safety straps in high chairs and changing tables.
Children ages 2 to 5 years can easily choke on everyday objects and food. Your child needs your supervision even though he or she may be able to eat independently.
- Prevent choking. Your child can choke on things smaller than 1.25 in. (3.2 cm) in diameter and 2.25 in. (5.7 cm) long. These include button batteries and coins. Keep items like these out of your child's reach.
- Learn to recognize signs of choking. For example, a child who is choking can't talk, cry, breathe, or cough.
Strangulation and suffocation
Many household items can strangle a young child. Make sure that loose cords, objects, and furniture don't pose strangling risks.
- Keep cords for blinds and drapes out of reach. Attach cords to mounts that hold them taut, and wrap them around wall brackets. Cords with loops should be cut and equipped with safety tassels.
- Do not use accordion-style gates. Babies and young children can get their heads trapped in the gate and may strangle.
- Make sure that furniture doesn't have cutout portions or other areas that can trap your child's head.
Suffocation is another danger for young children. Teach your child about suffocation and the importance of a safe play area. Pay attention to possible suffocation dangers, such as:
- Trunks of cars. Keep rear fold-down seats closed so children aren't able to climb into the trunk from inside the car. Also, always lock car doors and keep the keys out of sight and out of reach of your child.
- Refrigerators and freezers, even those that aren't in use. If you are storing an old refrigerator or freezer, be sure to take off the door.
- Plastic sacks. Don't let your child play with plastic sacks. Keep them out of reach. Children may put sacks over their head during play, which can lead to suffocation.
- Prevent poisoning from common household items. Identify any products that could harm your child when eaten or inhaled. Store these products out of your child's reach. If you have a possible poisoning emergency, call 1-800-222-1222. For more information, see the topic Poisoning.
- Prevent lead poisoning. Children may chew on contaminated paint flakes, painted objects, or toys. Homes built before 1978 may still have lead paint on walls and other surfaces. For more information about lead, see the topic Lead Poisoning.
- Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning (CO). Use a carbon monoxide detector, and have your furnace checked each year. High CO levels quickly affect young children because of their small size. For more information, see the topic Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
- Avoid secondhand smoke, mold, and other indoor air pollutants. They can affect health and safety. For more information, see Tips for Reducing Indoor Pollutants in Your Home.
Fire hazards and burns
- Prevent household fires by having and maintaining smoke detectors, planning and practicing escape routes, and teaching your child basic fire safety skills. Children ages 2 to 5 are often curious about fire. Warn your child about the dangers of fire, and explain why only grown-ups are allowed to use it.
- Prevent burns. Serious burns are most often caused by heat, electricity, or chemicals. Prevent burn injuries to your child by identifying dangers in your home and removing them or blocking your child's access to them. For more information, see the topic Burns.
- Enjoy fireworks from a distance. Fireworks injure children each summer. Children can also get burns from using and being around firecrackers and sparklers.
Guns and other weapons
Gun and firearm safety measures should be established for all households and especially those where children live or visit. Keep all guns and firearms in a locked area, unloaded, and out of reach of children. Also, store knives (even kitchen knives), swords, and other weapons safely out of reach.
Teach children how to interact with pets. Teach them to never tease animals or bother them while they are eating. Explain that animals can sometimes hurt you. Also be sure to train your own pets and keep them healthy.
Children younger than 5 years of age die from drowning more than any other age group.1 Help prevent drowning by following these tips:
- Supervise all baths at all times. Always stay within arm's reach of your child. Never leave your child alone in the tub-even with an older sibling.
- Deal with water hazards, and teach swimming safety. Teach your child the rules of safe swimming and how to swim. Empty all buckets and coolers when not in use. Keep toilet lids down, and consider securing them with safety latches.
- Keep pools and hot tubs safe. Don't let your child swim alone. If you have your own pool or pond, keep it fenced. Teach your child that hot tubs aren't places to play. Consider making them off-limits.
- Keep children away from irrigation canals. Don't let your child play in or near irrigation canals.
In addition to these precautions, learn first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Knowing these skills can make the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. For more information, see the topic Dealing With Emergencies.